RE/MAX 440
Carol L Hirst
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
 Phone: 610-405-3069
Office Phone: 215-643-3200
Fax: 267-354-6238 
CLHirst@comcast.net
Carol L Hirst

My Blog

The Household Convenience You Shouldn't Purchase

July 28, 2015 1:30 am

Liquid detergent pods may come in handy on laundry day, but their convenience is far outweighed by the danger they present, especially to young children. With over 5,000 complaints to poison control centers in the last six months alone, Consumer Reports advises households home to children younger than 6 should refrain from purchasing them.

“We recognize the role parents and caregivers play in keeping children safe, but we believe the unique risks posed by liquid laundry pods warrant this action, at least until the adoption of tougher safety measures leads to a meaningful drop in injuries,” says Consumer Reports Senior Home Editor Dan DiClerico.

Key changes to laundry pods have already been implemented in Europe, including the addition of a bittering agent to give them a bad taste, higher burst strength to make them harder to bite into, and a slower dissolve rate, so they’ll be less likely to open in a child’s mouth.

Source: Consumer Reports

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The Anatomy of Asphalt Roofing

July 28, 2015 1:30 am

Did you know the most popular type of roofing material is asphalt? According to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), there are different kinds of low- and steep-slope asphalt roofing systems available, and a whole-system approach can provide long-term durability, reliability and value to a property.

ARMA recommends that residential properties with steep-slope systems generally include six components:

• An ice and water barrier product
• An underlayment
• A shingle starter product
• Asphalt shingles
• Hip and ridge shingles
• Ventilation, both for intake and exhaust

Asphaltic technology offers a range of low-slope roofing options, including Built-Up Roofing (BUR), Atactic Polypropylene (APP) and Styrene Butadiene Styrene (SBS), as well as many different installation methods.

Source: ARMA

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How to Start Planning for Retirement

July 27, 2015 1:30 am

Retirement preparation is essential to the success of your “next chapter.” If you’re unsure of where to begin, independent financial advisory firm The Mather Group advises the following:

1. Develop a realistic monthly budget for retirement.
Track your expenses for up to a year to get an accurate picture of your financial needs. Account for one-time expenses, such as that new furnace or roof you may soon need, and note month-to-month fluctuations in expenses. Plan for higher inflation rates for certain types of spending, such as health care and college expenses.

2. Develop a comprehensive financial plan. Take inventory of your assets – the equity in your home and all investments (401K, stocks, savings, life insurance, etc.). Note all projected retirement income streams, such as pensions and Social Security. Your financial planner will complete your plan and should stress-test it using Monte Carlo simulations to see how it performs under changing market conditions.

3. Maintain an appropriately diversified portfolio. You should be invested in a combination of fixed income, U.S. stocks, and foreign equities, which is the best way to protect your portfolio from a possible correction. Low-cost indexes such as ETFs are a better option than high-cost mutual funds, which typically add one percent in additional management costs.

4. Create a cash flow strategy to minimize taxes.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with specialized knowledge of tax code pertaining to retirement assets can help determine how you should tap your savings to minimize income taxes throughout your retirement.

Source: The Mather Group

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Building a Deck? A Comparison of Materials

July 27, 2015 1:30 am

(BPT) – Looking for a way to enhance your outdoor space? A deck may be the answer. According to the experts at Fiberon Decking (www.fiberondecking.com), the materials you decide to use, whether wood or composite, can affect the project from initial investment to maintenance years from now.

Building a deck with composite materials will cost more than virgin wood initially, but not as much as most homeowners think. The substructure is the same cost for either option and the remainder of the project could cost about 25 percent more for composite. However, most wood lumber is pressure-treated with different chemicals to boost its integrity and make it last longer.

That cost is often recouped over time because there is little maintenance required with composites – maintaining a wood deck can cost hundreds of dollars each year. Nail pops and splinters are common safety hazards with wood decks, as are cracked, warped and rotted boards that need to be replaced. And refinishing a wood deck can cost up to $850!

Composites are also environmentally-friendly – the material not only saves trees, but is created from recycled materials, keeping waste out of landfills.

Want to see how the numbers compare? Visit www.epa.gov and check out the EPA's GreenScapes Tools Excel Decking Cost Calculator.

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4 Things Property Investors Should Know

July 27, 2015 1:30 am

Real estate has long been considered one of the best long-term investments, and with good reason. But before buying up properties like a game of Monopoly, investors should be aware of several factors that can make or break an investment, says Eleanor Blayney, CFP®, Certified Financial Planner Board consumer advocate.

Blayney recommends investors ensure they have enough to put money down upfront when purchasing a property, and factor recurring costs into their budgets (i.e., interest, taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs). Real estate investors planning to act as their own property manager must consider the time, attention and availability needed for tenants, as well.

And keep in mind investing in real estate is equivalent to starting a business, says Blayney. From weighing the benefits of a rent increase to doing a cost-benefit analysis on property improvements, properties require significant amounts of strategy and management. Like any business, investors also need to consider an exit strategy.

Real estate investors should not neglect other opportunities for investment, particularly stocks. These offer the diversification most real estate investors do not have, unless they plan to acquire commercial, rental and industrial properties across a range of markets, Blayney adds.

Source: CFP Board

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7 Things to Know about Paint

July 24, 2015 1:21 am

Painting the interior of your home is the fastest and most economical way to give it a fresh, new look. But before you pick up a paintbrush, read these tips from the editors of Better Homes & Gardens:

Try out colors before painting – Slather a piece of cardboard with your chosen shade and hang it on the wall for a preview

The right brush matters 
– For oil-based paint, China bristle paint brushes, which leave few brush marks, are a good choice. For acrylics and high-quality latex paints, nylon paint brushes are best. Nylon-polyester blends and 100-percent-polyester brushes work with any paint.

Roller cover nap – the rougher the surface of the wall, the longer the nap needs to be.

Use the right sheen - Flats hide surface flaws but can be tough to clean, making them best in low-traffic areas. Satins are more luminous, easier to clean, and best suited for hall walls, baths, and trims. Semi-gloss paints are easy to clean and a good choice for woodwork and walls subject to wear and tear. Gloss paints do well in kitchens and baths, and on railings, cabinetry, and windowsills.

Yes, you can paint wood paneling – Use a strong household cleaner to remove dirt or wax buildup. Rinse off, then dull the paneling surface with sandpaper. Wipe it down with a damp rag, and coat the surface with stain-blocking primer. Let it dry overnight and paint with a flat, satin, or semi-gloss latex.

Buy the right amount of paint – Add the widths of the walls, then multiply that figure by the room's ceiling height and divide by 350 (the typical square footage one gallon covers). The result is roughly the number of gallons of paint you need. (The formula doesn't account for windows and doors, so you should have paint left over for touch-ups.

Painting a kid’s room? Chalkboard paint transforms walls and floors into the perfect place to give free rein to kids' creative impulses. The latex formula of chalkboard paint requires no special primers or sealers.

Storing leftover paint - Stored properly, a can of paint lasts three to five years. Store paint between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit and avoid placing cans on concrete floors, where they rust more quickly. Write on the can to indicate color, date of purchase, and where used.

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How to Squeeze More Home Improvements into a Tight Budget

July 24, 2015 1:21 am

With all the attention we tend to want to lavish around the outside of our homes, it's hard to withhold any funds to freshen up the inside. But Doug Chapman at homedaddys.com recently posted a handy punch list of decorating ideas you can accomplish while keeping within a tight budget:

Chapman says one of the simplest ways to add flavor to your new home while being on a budget is to look at the flooring. You don’t have automatically put new flooring in – whether it is carpet or hardwood floors – you could also add a special little touch with an area rug.

Another thing, Chapman says—don’t use all of your financial resources in just one room. Since the kitchen and living room are most popular for gathering—make sure to spread finances out and focus more on those spaces.

At the same time, Chapman says not put all your marbles in those two baskets—save money for the bathrooms, master bedroom and also the common foyer area. You want to make sure to add a little personal touch in each area.

Chapman says when you are looking for furniture on a budget, make sure you don't pass up the clearance/consignment stores. Just because someone used that furniture before doesn’t mean it isn’t ok for you to buy and re-use—just give it a good cleaning.

And, while bedroom furniture is not cheap, Chapman says the mattress is key. Just expect to sink a decent amount into a good mattress you can sink into comfortably.

And the simplest tip for decorating your master bedroom? Chapman says a simple paint job can accents walls and give your place a new and refreshed feel.

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Furniture Arrangement 101: Making the Most of Your Space

July 24, 2015 1:21 am

Filling your home with comfortable furniture that reflects your sense of style can be a joy for the new homeowner. But it can be a major headache unless you consider the basics for good furniture arrangement.

Home designers at Ethan Allen offer five tips to help get your started:
  • Plan before you buy – Measure one room at a time and give yourself a little quiz. What do want to do in this room? How many would you like to seat? Less is more, so don’t feel you need to buy every piece available in a suite. Pick three pieces you really want and build the rest slowly, leaving easy-to-manage foot paths.
  • Zero in on a focal point – This will be the heart of the room. If there’s a fireplace, you will want your seating space to face it and build the rest of the room around it. Perhaps the focal point is a TV screen – or a lovely mirror, a piece of artwork, or a sweeping view of the outdoors.
  • Encourage conversation – It’s tough when the sofa is against one wall and chairs are placed against the others. Arrange the couch, coffee table and chairs in an inviting cluster away from the walls to create a cozy, more inviting social space.
  • Be practical about space – You don’t want to hit a lamp when you open a drawer or have your guests hit their knees on the coffee table when they get up. Leave space between pieces – and leaving three feet of walking space around the room will keep guests from knocking into furniture or bumping into the walls.
  • A room is about first impressions – If you walk into the room and see the back of the couch, mask it with a pretty console table and accessories – or hang a lovely throw over the back of it. You want guests entering the room to see something interesting first. Lamps and other accessories should be eye catching enough to suggest the room is welcoming and inviting.

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10 Tips for Charitable Giving

July 23, 2015 1:18 am

It’s an unfortunate reality – the potential for giving scams becomes greater in the wake of a tragedy. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, donors should take care when giving to organizations claiming to support efforts to minimize the aftermath of a tragedy. If you’re considering making a donation, remember to:

1. Give Thoughtfully – Take the time to check out the charity to avoid donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.

2. Check Registration – About 40 of the 50 United States require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.

3. Respect Victims and Their Families – Organizations raising funds should have gotten permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them.

4. Verify Where Donations Go – How will your donation help? Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. In addition, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.

5. Look for Transparency – After funds are raised, it’s important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available.

6. Exercise Caution with Assistance Funds – Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately.

7. Note Advocacy Organizations – Tragedies can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations. Donors can support these efforts, but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Be wary of newly created advocacy groups.

8. Avoid Unfamiliar Links – Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.

9. Opt for Established Organizations – This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may mean well, but may not be well managed.

10. Review Tax Deductibility – Not all organizations are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these entities if desired. Contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual or family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.

Source: BBB.org

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Check Credit before Considering a Move

July 23, 2015 1:18 am

(Family Features) When planning to buy a home, your first of order of business shouldn’t be creating a wish list – it should be reviewing your credit. While it’s possible to buy a home without a mortgage, most people don't have that kind of cash, and your credit is a major factor in lender decisions.

"Before applying for any loan, be sure to check the state of your credit," says CreditRepair.com President Scott Smith. "Owning a home is a big part of the American dream, but home loans can be very complex, and doing all of the proper research from the beginning, including completing any necessary credit repair up front, will make the process that much simpler."

Smith recommends homebuyers follow these tips to evaluate their credit report and/or rectify any errors.

Get a copy of your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year by law. In some states, you are entitled to more than one free report a year.

Analyze your credit report. Carefully scrutinize your report to identify any errors that can help boost your score and request corrections for all erroneous information.

Keep all credit card accounts open. Closing an unused credit card account can actually negatively affect your credit. Fifteen percent of your score is based on credit history.

Make all payments on time.
Payment history accounts for a whopping 35 percent of your credit score.

Give yourself time. Good things do come to those who wait. Take the time to repair and build up your credit. It could save you thousands of dollars down the road.

Source: CreditRepair.com

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